You can almost hear the smile in Liz Crow's voice as she recalls the first time she came to Pimlico Race Course in a professional setting – partially because it wasn't all that long ago but mostly because it seems like a lifetime has passed since.
In 2007, the Bethesda, Md. native had just landed her first job in the Thoroughbred industry serving as an Entry Clerk at Old Hilltop under the guidance of longtime racing secretary Georganne Hale. A relative neophyte to racing, she was being educated on the day-to-day variables of the sport seemingly by the minute. But if there was one thing Crow tucked into both then and now, it was the chance to feed her diligent mind with knowledge and come up with ways to keep improving the opportunities before her.
“I really didn't know about the condition book or anything, I was like 17 at the time,” Crow said. “But (Hale) taught me a ton. I am so thankful to her because she gave me one of my first jobs…and it's come full circle.”
The work ethic that first landed her at the historic Baltimore track hasn't shifted, but Crow now brings a decidedly bolstered resume with her when she sets foot on the grounds for business this week. In addition to serving as the racing manager for Ten Strike Racing, Crow is best known for her growing reputation as one of the sharpest bloodstock agents in the game. Her ability to spot what others miss has allowed her to pick out such stalwarts as champion Monomoy Girl and Grade 1 winners Leofric and Long On Value, and when the gates pop open for the 144th edition of the Preakness Stakes May 18, another representative of her keen judgment will aim to announce themselves on one of the biggest stages.
Among the so-called “new shooters” getting the most buzz heading into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown is the Brad Cox-trained Warrior's Charge, a son of Munnings who was supplemented into the classic by owners Ten Strike Racing and Sol Kumin's Madaket Stables. Along with stablemate and fellow Preakness entrant Owendale, Warrior's Charge represents the first starters in a Triple Crown race for Cox – an Eclipse Award finalist for Outstanding Trainer in 2018. Having been purchased privately by Crow on behalf of her clients in December of his yearling season, the dark bay colt also has a chance to score a massive triumph for a member of the home team should his recent form translate to the next level Saturday.
“As an agent or a trainer or an owner, I think you rank the races you'd always want to win in the back of your mind. And because I'm from Maryland, the Preakness is definitely at the top of the list,” said Crow, who is also a partner in ELiTE Sales and BSW Bloodstock in addition to managing Ten Strike's racing stable. “Just to have a horse in the race is gratifying because it's Preakness specifically, and that was my first job in horse racing.”
Crow's eye for horseflesh got its foundation at an early age as she grew up riding hunters, but her interest in racing was primarily that as a fan until getting first track experience more than a decade ago. After graduating from the University of Louisville in 2010 with a B.S. in Business Administration from the Equine Business Program, Crow served as Director of Racing for Bradley Thoroughbreds from 2011–2015 before joining BSW Bloodstock and eventually helping to form ELiTE Sales along with Bradley Weisbord.
The first horse she ever signed the ticket for at Keeneland was a chestnut daughter of Tapizar she purchased on behalf of Kumin for $100,000 at the 2016 September Yearling auction. So unfamiliar sale officials were with her at that time that they didn't even get Crow's name right in the system.
“They spelled my name with an 'e' on the end of it,” Crow said, adding. “It was kind of a humbling moment.”
By the time her purchase – now known to the racing world as Monomoy Girl – captured the 2018 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) as part of her championship campaign, those wanting to succeed at racing's top level had figured out who Crow was and why her insight would be a priceless addition to any team.
“We've known Liz since she was working for Bradley Thoroughbreds… and we recognized when she was working there how talented she was and that she was going to be a big player one day,” said Marshall Gramm, co-owner of the Ten Strike Racing partnership. “So when she went on her own, we made our decision that she was going to buy all our horses. One thing I can say about Liz is she just has an incredible work ethic, always looking to make herself better, always looking to evaluate the trades that she makes, reflect on the decisions, and go back and do all the hard work that needs to be done.
“I've never really been around anyone who works as hard as she does,” he added. “That's her biggest asset, she's always learning, she is never satisfied. Even with Monomoy Girl – having something like that so early in her career, she could just ride that success. But she's so diligent about finding us a good buy.”
It was during a routine visit a couple winters ago to the McKathan Brothers Training Center that the next potential star feather in Crow's cap caught her astute eye.
Bred in Florida by Al Shaquab Racing, Warrior's Charge had originally been targeted for the sales ring only to have those plans scrapped when he colicked as a yearling. His surgical history made him less than desirable commercially, but Crow was nonetheless taken by the way she saw him move and in turn, made his owners an offer.
“I was out there in December taking a look at our horses and he happened to be on the track and galloped by me and I was really impressed with the way he moved,” Crow said. “He was such an efficient good mover and I was like 'What is the deal with him?' It's hard to sell a horse when it colics as a yearling for obvious reasons, so they couldn't run him through public auction, so he was kind of left over and in training. So we bought him in December of his yearling year privately.”
Even without the first four across the line from the Kentucky Derby showing up in this year's Preakness Stakes, it takes a measure of confidence to ante up $150,000 to supplement to the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Since breaking his maiden at fourth asking in March, Warrior's Charge has given his connections reason to think his best day puts him in the mix with some of the better members of his generation.
After finishing third in his first three career outings, Warrior's Charge has found another level to his game in his two tries beyond eight furlongs. His maiden triumph was a six-length, gate-to-wire triumph going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn on March 16. He was kind enough to duplicate that outing next time out when he won by 6 ½ lengths over the same track and distance on April 12.
“All the numbers kind of say he is one of the nicer 3-year-old colts in the country,” Crow said of Warrior's Charge. “We have a lot of respect for War of Will and Improbable, too, but it's like, with the top three [from the Kentucky Derby] not coming, why not take a shot? He was locked and loaded for the Sir Barton – that was the race we were pointing to – but all of us felt ….it was almost anti-climactic after how well he was doing after the race, how well he was breezing. He's done nothing wrong since he's stretched out and gone two turns and he's done nothing wrong out of the race.”
It's a tribute to Crow's success that, should Warrior's Charge win the Preakness Saturday, it would have competition on her emotional hierarchy, as the thrill of Monomoy Girl's Oaks win still holds the No. 1 spot in her heart.
And if her own track record means anything, Crow already has a history of making the absolute most of her time at Pimlico.
“Honestly at the end of the day, I could win a big race but then I'd be like 'Why did that other horse run third in an allowance race? What can we do better?'” Crow said. “I'm very thankful for the people that have given me all these opportunities and have helped me get to where I am, but I still feel very much like I have a lot left to prove.”
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